Archives for April 2014

On reaching great heights

peaks via kimberlyanncoyle.com

Having never played sports myself (save a short stint on a field hockey team in which I realized I liked the cute uniforms more than the actual game), this world of middle school and high school athletics I find myself immersed in remains a mystery to me. I attended an informational meeting with fifty other parents for my daughter’s softball team, and I left more confused than when I arrived. Words like dugouts and club teams and “no excuses” were thrown about willy-nilly. I thought it was some sort of perverse joke when they asked for a good portion of my time and even more of my money to stave off ” the cannibalization of school sports by club teams!!!”

I’m sorry, what?

I had no idea what this meant or why everyone nodded and furiously wrote notes-to-self on their sheets of paper. Who knew people took this so seriously? Then my son signed up for club lacrosse and my youngest for Girls on the Run, and the pieces of my athletically puzzled brain snapped into place. My life is slowly being cannibalized by all manner of team sports. I asked my husband why all of this is such a big deal, and he said once most kids reach high school, they’ve reached the pinnacle of their performance. This is it, it’s the last time they’ll play, the last time they’ll be a part of a team in this way.

I flashed back to the dads at the softball meeting, with their round bellies and thinning hair. I heard the excitement in their voices, their rising chatter surrounding the potential of their girls and The Team. A few moms joined in too, but most of them slunk low in their chairs, knowing the start of another season meant fitting one more thing in their overtaxed schedule.

I think back to that afternoon and I wonder when these moms and dads felt like they reached the pinnacle. Was it during their final season, when life unfolded like an open field waiting for them to run? Was it the decade before their bodies turned soft, their mother hips widening to allow the world to pass through? Maybe they reached it when they hung up their hard-earned diploma or when they walked up the aisle to say “I do” before realizing years later, they actually don’t.

I remember my husband’s words and I think about myself too. I don’t think I’ve reached my pinnacle yet. That’s not completely true. After trying on swimsuits this week, I can say my body certainly has seen greater heights, but as to reaching my potential as a human being? I can’t envision that peak. I know it hides there, shrouded behind the clouds. I strive for this unknown height, gaining strength from other summits I’ve reached along the way–the marriage, the mothering, the world-wandering, and the marathons.

This much is true for me and probably for you too: my life is cannibalized by ball schedules. By dishes. By laundry and gravity and the bittersweet aftertaste of the mundane. These ordinary things are part of the path leading to the next summit. The stuff of my everyday become the mile markers I count along the way. They keep my feet planted in this good and dirty earth, when my head wants to live in the clouds.

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Do you feel like you’ve reached the pinnacle? What are you still working towards? What is your latest summit?

The coming season

pink and blue via kimberlyanncoyle.com

I shut my computer with a snap and a sigh. I knew the application deadline passed a few days prior, but seeing it in black and white felt like reading the death announcement of my dreams. It was my own fault; I waffled for months over my decision to apply to this particular MFA program. I made lists of pros and cons, asked everyone—short of my mailman—their opinion, and badgered my husband with what-if scenarios.

Much to my husband’s chagrin, the what-if’s usually emerged around 11pm. What if I don’t apply and I waste another year of my life, my energy, or my potential? What if I do apply…

I’m honored to be writing at The High Calling today on Performance vs Potential. Join me there to continue reading.

When you have grand plans

birch via kimberlyanncoyle.com

The white birch in the back yard needed to stay. It weeps and lists slightly to the left, but it also frames every sunset, and so it needed to stay while almost every other tree in the yard ended up in the chipper. My husband has grand plans for this piece of property, but before we could begin the project, the old had to make way for the new. I wake up to bird chatter every morning, and these feathered friends sing me through the day. I worried we would not only remove the trees, but the birdsong would be lost too.

When I feel sad about the state of our back yard, post-tree massacre, I take out the folded sheet of paper with the new plans drawn in vibrant color. It helps to look ahead, to see where the state of this current mess is going. It’s going to get a lot uglier. There will be strange men digging holes and ripping out everything that lies in their way. There will be unbearable weather conditions, and mix-ups, and unfortunate mistakes. It’s going to cost us something to see this dream become a reality, and I don’t just mean in money. It cost us the trees and probably some pieces of my sanity and, for a short time, it cost us some of the morning chatter.

This morning, when I looked out on my lone birch, the broken and weeping branches held a flock of birds. Swooping in and out, singing away the day, waiting for the framing of the evening sun. Most of the trees are gone, but as is the way of life, when our vibrant and grand plans collide with our current ones, some of the old must bend and make way for the new.

Link love: Edition 001~I read things

I get around the internet a fair bit, but I don’t often share the links I’m currently reading. Let’s remedy that, shall we? I intended to post these last week, but good words never get old, they get better with age. Much like myself, or so I tell my husband. If you click on any of them, make it Sarah Bessey’s post on the women of Haiti. It will make you stand up straighter.

flower basket via kimberlyanncoyle.com

For the artist:

This post from Billy Coffey will inspire you to keep creating for the love of the work rather than the applause of men.

For the writer:

Shauna Niequist tells us there are a million ways to be a writer. Yes, and amen.

For people who make things:

This is so lovely. From Annie Barnett, artist.

For the readers/writers:

Do you know Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy? She’s my unofficial book guru. If you’re looking for great reads, she’s your first stop, and in this post she talks books with Shauna Niequist. Double score.

For every woman, everywhere:

Sarah Bessey writes of the women she meets on her trip to Haiti, of their strength and their unbending spines. You might repent for all of your belly aching after reading this one. I know I did.

Scripture cards:

I don’t know about you, but I need to paper the walls in truth. Emily at Jones Design Co gives us a place to start.

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This is fun! Let’s do it again. Do you have any links you’d like to share in the comments?

When you want a happy ending

DSC_2481

I recently watched a film about French artist Seraphine Louis (Seraphine de Senlis). The film was in French, and I thought it might help me to hear the words in conversation, that perhaps some of what I’m learning in my French lessons will stick if I hear other people speak it. I caught a few words, but spent most of the film glued to the subtitles while trying not to miss any of the action. Fortunately, French films about dead artists aren’t really known for their intense action scenes, so I kept up for the two hours it took to tell Seraphine’s story.

She grew up poor, hard, destined for a life where the creative gifts of her hands lent themselves to a life of manual labor. They scrubbed and cleaned and cooked all day long, and in the night, rather than sleep off the weariness of her day, Seraphine painted. She couldn’t contain her art, so she released it into the night onto scraps of wood with paints of her own making. Her employer, a well-known art collector, discovered her work and eventually sold and exhibited her paintings after she spent decades painting in obscurity.

Seraphine had visions. She heard voices. She was a troubled genius, broken from the inside out, and yet she produced some of the most interesting, creative paintings I’ve ever seen from a self-taught artist. Her story doesn’t have a happy ending, and I desperately wanted it to. I kept waiting for the plot lines to shift, for the words to begin to make sense on the screen, but the truth is Seraphine died with her art tangled up in her madness.

She was lost and found and lost again.

I read somewhere that the early Christian church sometimes called resurrection day the eighth day of creation because it is the day when all things are made new, where everything that is broken in both the body and the spirit has a chance at redemption. When I think of Seraphine’s story, and also when I think of my own, I see how the creative process of making all things new is ongoing. God’s Kingdom is present in the here and now, but also there is “not yet”. It is the “not yet” that I cling to, believing that the broken things of today, the thorns in our side that we beg God to remove, the sin and sickness and our own fallible nature, will one day fall away forever.

Until then, I will celebrate where I see God’s Kingdom moving in the here and now. I will celebrate and participate in this ongoing act of creation because this is a story with a happy ending.